The 49ers travel to Durham, NC today to take on a Duke Blue Devils team, hungry for a win after consecutive losses to Michigan State and the No. 1 Stanford Cardinal.
“[Duke has] a really savvy setting game and offensive instruction,” said Weatherington.
The Blue Devils boast a front-row headlined by 2018 ACC All-Freshman Team selection, 6’3 middle blocker Ade Oworkoniran that holds a slight height advantage over the 49ers front row.
“[We need] to be ready to play big; it’s ACC ball. It’s going to go fast,” said 49ers’ Head Coach Karen Weatherington.
The 49ers, however, have a C-USA All-Freshman Team selection on their roster, 6’1 middle blocker Tyra Galloway. The individual matchup in the middle between the Blue Devils’ Oworkoniran and the 49ers’ Galloway could prove to be a decisive factor in the match.
To combat the Blue Devils’ height, Weatherington will instill a heavy emphasis on ball movement, defense and serving.
“Defense is going to be key for us this week [as well as] passing the ball and winning the pass and serve game,” said Weatherington. “We probably have to serve a little tougher overall.”
In the 49ers’ first three games of the season, they are averaging nine service errors per game. The Blue Devils committed only five service errors against the number-one ranked Stanford Cardinal in their previous matchup. Limiting self-inflicted errors on serving will play a key role in deciding the outcome of the match for the 49ers. Anticipate 49ers’ service ace leaders Sydney Rowan and Mackenzie Reaume to play an integral role as servers.
Additionally, Reaume, along with Annika Wettersom, will need to continue to lead the team in assists and instigate ball movement to keep the Blue Devil’s tall front row off balance and create scoring opportunities.
Defensively, Yumi Garcia will need to build upon her Charlotte Invitational All-Tournament Team performance. Garcia is averaging 27.3 digs per game through the first three games of the season.
The 49ers’ exhibition match early in the season against ACC foe Clemson should help the 49ers prepare for a similar opponent in Duke.
“We saw Clemson in the exhibition and they are probably very similar [to Duke],” said Weatherington.
The 49ers’ view the match against the Blue Devils as an opportunity to flex their muscles against an in-state ACC opponent. However, for Weatherington, this match is more meaningful than a simple intrastate rivalry; it’s a homecoming.
“I’m looking forward to going in and playing in Cameron; it’s a little bit of a return home for me,” said Weatherington. “I had been an assistant there many years ago, so we’re going home and looking to steal a game from the Blue Devils.”
The 49ers look to defeat in-state rival Duke in Weatherington’s return home today in Durham, NC at 6:30 p.m.